Know Thy Enemy, By Avi Aaron

Public-EnemyIn Greek mythology there is the story of Ulysses, who was told about the beautiful irresistible music of the Sirens. A music so enchanting that sailors who heard it were attracted to it only to be drawn to their death, as their ships were wrecked on the reefs. Ulysses wished to hear what the music sounded like yet he knew that to expose himself to this would mean certain death. He therefore had all his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and securely tie him to the mast. He gave his crew orders to row in the direction of the harbor and to continue to row past the harbor. He then ordered his men to leave him tied to the mast and to row past the harbor, no matter how much he would beg otherwise. They were not to deviate from these orders even if he gave them new orders, gesturing otherwise from his position on the mast.

The sailors did as they were told. As they rowed near the harbor, Ulysses, hearing the music of the Sirens, began to shouting to the crew to change their course and head towards the harbor. “I am your captain,” he screamed “I order you to untie me and head towards the harbor.” But the crew refused and continued to row on. He kept on begging, promising them the world if only they would listen and head into the harbor.

They eventually took the ship past the harbor where the music could no longer be heard. Ulysses collapsed, totally exhausted by his fierce struggle. Only then did he realize how close he and his crew had come to being totally destroyed. Had he not given orders to his crew to defy him and ignore him they all would have been killed.

The Yetzer Hora is powerful, cunning and bewildering. Never, ever underestimate him. No matter the place, the time or the way. We can never relax our guard when it comes to his domain. He is constantly and consistently seeking new and creative ways to destroy us and undermine our yiddishkeit.

So the obvious question we have to ask ourselves is what measures can we take to avoid being ensnared by him? How can we avoid the traps and pitfalls that we fell into last year and not repeat them?! We have worked so diligently the last month trying to better ourselves and take control of our lives, how can we maintain this continuity?
May I suggest a couple of ideas…

1- Geder: We have to realize the ferocity of the yetzer hora. But we really have to realize this. Not just on the surface, but internally as well. We have to take extreme measures to protect ourselves.

Josh became religious and just started observing kashrus. He was doing great with everything except Big Macs. He just loved McDonald’s cheese burgers. That was his one weakness. One day at work, a co-worker walked in with a double cheeseburger. Josh saw that and he started salivating. His heart started racing and his palms started sweating. Shortly thereafter, it was Josh’s lunch break. He walked downstairs to the office building exit and he stopped. He was planning on going to the local kosher deli which was to the right. But he remembered that there was a McDonalds to the left and he just wanted to get another whiff of those divine cheeseburgers. He wasn’t going to eat, chas v’shalom, he just wanted to take in the smell and then he would turn around and go to the kosher restaurant for lunch.

He turned and walked towards McDonalds. The next thing you know he’s sitting in McDonalds munching on a double cheeseburger with extra toppings, fries and a large coke. Where did things go wrong? Josh should NOT have turned in that direction. Putting yourself in the embrace of temptation is suicidal. Josh should have created a barrier and that would have been: not walking in the direction of McDonalds.

We have to incorporate these same barriers in our lives. We have to create fence after fence, barrier after barrier. Whatever our weaknesses are, and you bet we know what they are, we have to take the right precautions:

The Internet, sleeping late in the morning, Bitul Torah, Loshon hora etc. etc.

2- Organize: Are you organized? Maybe at work you are very organized. But how organized are you in the rest of your life. Do you account for the non-work hours each day?

Start using your day timer or blackberry to keep cheshbon of the rest of your day. Structure your life. This is learning time. This is family time. This is chesed time. Etc. etc. Remember, the yetzer hora preys on those who have a lot of time on their hands.

3- Turn Your World Upside Down: The yetzer hora just hates surprises. Try to surprise him by doing things out of the ordinary.
If you usually wake up a bit late. Try to begin waking up a half hour early.
If you usually learn 1 hour a day. Extend it by 15 minutes.
Go the extra mile to perform an act of chesed.
Try to incorporate a different topsy turvy form of yiddishkeit every day.
You will be pleasantly surprised to see how that will become the springboard for much success in your life.

4- Tefilla: Work on your davening. Take a couple of minutes every day to learn the ins and outs of tefilla.
There are two great seforim on the market that will revolutionize the way you daven. She’arim B’tefillah (Hebrew) & Praying With Fire (English).
You will start finding that you are enjoying your davening time, even looking forward to it.
And surprise, you will start finding that your tefillos are being answered.

5- Loshon Hora: You are probably sick and tired of hearing about loshon hora and its discrepancies. However please give me one minute.

By incorporating a daily study of shemiras haloshon not only will you be preventing yourself from committing some of the most severe aveiros in the torah but you will bring serenity and tranquility to your life. By becoming accustomed to not speaking loshon hora you will slowly discover a metamorphosis occurring in your life. The latest gossip won’t interest you as much. You won’t be so concerned with how much your neighbor made in the last deal. You won’t have any interest in another’s marital problems. Suddenly all those “urgent and pressing” issues fade into oblivion. Can you imagine the peace of mind? Can you appreciate the freedom and liberty from having to compete with others? It will greatly enhance your life and will be a catalyst to greater spiritual heights.

5- Mussar: Reb Yisroel Salanter was once asked; someone who only has one hour to learn, what should he delve into? He answered, Mussar. Because then you suddenly realize that you really have more time to learn. How true that is. Mussar will help us gain perspective on our lives, allowing us to glean what we need from different circumstances. It will also help keep us in line, intact and in sync with the Torah and our relationship with Hashem.

These are only a few ideas. The key is for us to be honest with ourselves. We have to always remember that our relationship and association with Hashem totally depends upon us. How close we want to become and how much we want to achieve is always in our hands. We can always choose to become inseparable or chas v’shalom, far-flung. That’s the irony of our journey on this world, we are the masters of our spiritual quest and its destiny is in our hands.

Gmar Chasima Tovah and a fantastic year for all!

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  1. Wonderful article. Thanks!

    Have an easy fast.

    To #1: One is supposed to look out for other’s “gashmius” needs and work on one’s own “ruchnius”. Have an EASY fast, and I’ll work on making mine meaningful B’siyata D’Shmaya…

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